Pierre Sabourin makes his home in Killarney, an inspiration to many of Canada’s great landscape artists.
BY TERESA PAGNUTTI
The iconic Canadian school of art, the Group of Seven, is alive and well, at least in spirit, philosophy and practice. It’s embodied in 59-year-old artist Pierre Sabourin, an established en plein air landscape painter and Sudbury native, who makes his home at Sunset Rock Studio in Killarney.
“I follow the Canadian School of painting of completely immersing oneself in nature to create. It lends itself to the whole creative process,” says Sabourin. “The Group of Seven were not only painters, they were into poetry, dance, and all types of creative arts. They followed a strict spiritual philosophy.”
With blue, intense eyes, framed by leathered, tanned skin, Sabourin is a born storyteller, sharing accounts of his bush painting expeditions, often in the dead of winter in sub-zero temperature. Helpers are recruited or volunteer to lug gear, set up his outdoor “studio,” and tend a fire to keep the artist’s paints from freezing. A fast painter, he’ll emerge two or three hours later with a completed canvas. Some can measure six feet.
Self-described as an expressionist, he paints on site (en plein air) using a technique characteristic of the Group of Seven with paint laid thickly on the canvas, so that brush and knife strokes are visible. Sabourin’s paintings are reminiscent, but contemporary interpretations of the northern landscape, rich with texture, vibrant hues, surreal-like patterns, ribbons and swirls.
Sabourin’s connection to the Group of Seven comes by honestly. Through his aunt’s marriage on his father’s side, he is related to the Lowe family of Killarney. As informal patrons of the Group, they were among the first to invite the artists into the Killarney Bay area where many of their works were created. Childhood memories include stories told by his great-uncle Charlie of visits from F.H. Varley, Arthur Lismer and other members.
The Group of Seven did not always name their pieces according to location. Sabourin believes his scenic Killarney studio is the true site providing the inspiration for Tom Thomson’s The Jack Pine.
At the tender age of 11, Sabourin was mentored by Lismer. “Lismer was the first person who could touch my soul. I finally found someone who could help me articulate what I was feeling. He gave me colour,” he says reverently. Partially in deference to his father, Bob, who was a player for the Toronto Maple Leafs with a long-time career in the NHL, the younger Sabourin pursued hockey too, until he went on to study fine arts at the University of Ottawa and National Drawing and Print Council of Canada at the University of Calgary. Eight years ago, Sabourin returned home to northeastern Ontario.During summer months, he works as artist in residence for Killarney Provincial Park, a program sponsored by Friends of Killarney Park. Last summer 230 students enrolled in his popular en plein air course, Footsteps of the Group of Seven.
Ten of Sabourin’s paintings have been recently acquired by the Swiss-based pharmaceutical company Ferring Inc. as part of its extensive, prestigious global art collection. Sabourin’s works claim prime real estate space in the new sleek North Toronto offices of Ferring’s Canadian headquarters. His composition of George Lake, Killarney Provincial Park is installed in the foyer while the somewhat whimsical Two Otters, Killarney Channel is the focal point in the corporate boardroom. The remainder are prominently displayed throughout. At the official opening of the Ferring headquarters, oblivious to the suits galore, the artist enters the sophisticated, corporate reception in his plaid shirt, jeans and leather jacket. He kisses and embraces Canadian general manager Mike Seckler and is easy and effusive talking about his art with other global executives who are attending the launch. He mingles with employees, some of whom he already met at an artist’s talk earlier in the summer. Sabourin’s works are represented in private collections in 19 countries, including Canada. And with the new installation at Ferring headquarters, “I’m now in a collection with Andy Warhol,” the artist enthuses.
Article Sudbury Living Magazine by Teresa Pagnutti click here pg. 70-73